Algebra is the development of the pupils’ work with number, generalising what they notice and representing it in symbols.
For example, if a sequence of numbers is 3, 6, 9, 12 it is possible to say that the next number is three more than the previous one and so it will be 15; but algebra lets us write down what the 100th or 1000th number will be.
The next stage is to use algebra to describe the situation by using symbols, for example, the above sequence could be written as y = 3x. Algebra helps pupils represent solutions in concise ways.
You can help your child by:
- encouraging them to explain to you what they are doing or finding out in class or for their homework
- being sensitive to the way that they are being taught now and not rehearsing the tricks that you may have learned when you were at school
- being aware that letters, when used in expressions such as (2x + 3), stand for numbers, for instance, a might stand for the number of apples but it would not just mean ‘apples’
- helping them in discussions to make links with their other subjects, for instance with formulae in science: distance equals speed multiplied by time, or s = vt.